[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1993, Book I)]
[February 4, 1993]
[Pages 46-49]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at a Dinner Honoring the New Jersey Congressional Delegation
February 4, 1993

    Good evening. Thank you. I know we're not really, but it feels like 
it's nice to be back in New Jersey. And I'm glad to have you here in the 
Nation's Capital. You may or may not be able to see this, but on the way 
in tonight, Bill Faherty gave me a New Jersey tie, which I have proudly 
donned. They even had a mirror outside for me to be able to tie it in a 
straight and appropriate fashion. [Laughter]
    I want to tell you how very glad I am to be here tonight with the 
State chamber, how much I want to welcome you to our Nation's Capital. 
I've just been here as President 2 weeks and a day, and I'm already 
hoping we can keep an infusion of people from the heartland coming in to 
keep us in touch with reality.
    I'm glad to see all the Members of the House here. Senator Bradley 
and Senator Lautenberg are voting tonight as the United States Senate 
attempts to work out the family leave bill. I do want to say a special 
word of appreciation to both of them in front of their constituents for 
not only the support they have given me but for the genuinely good 
advice across a whole wide range of issues. I have the sort of 
relationship with them which I really respect and which I hope the 
Members of Congress here will take to heart. Either one of them is 
liable to call me at any time of the day or night from places unknown. 
Always all right places, but--[laughter]--I mean, when they're around, 
you know. And I'm very, very grateful to both of them not only for their 
support in the recent election but for their involvement in the great 
issues of this time.
    I've been working hard for the last 2 weeks to try to be worthy of 
the trust of the voters of this country who gave me a chance to become 
President, including the people of New Jersey who voted for a Democrat 
for the first time in 28 years. I know you haven't always been able to 
tell it from the news, but I spent virtually all of my time working on 
the economy, the jobs issues, the deficit, meeting in long periods with 
my staff, with people from around the country who know about these 
matters, with Members of the United States Congress, working with people 
in both parties to try to end the gridlock and to reach agreement so 
that we can move forward.
    We've had, as all of you know now, an economic upturn in the last 
few months, and we hope that we are coming out firmly of the longest 
recession we've had in a good long while. There is much to be encouraged 
about in two or three areas. First of all, interest rates have been down 
for a good long while now, and millions of Americans have refinanced 
their homes or been able to buy new homes in ways that have generated 
significant economic activity. Second, and even more encouraging over 
the long run, there has been a big increase in the productivity of 
American businesses and workplaces. That is, after all, the key to our 
economic future. And finally, beginning in December with a little bit in 
November, but a big increase in December in consumer confidence, which 
has strengthened the consumer market in our coun-

[[Page 47]]

try, something we hope will carry through for the next few months.
    Still, there are clear challenges before us. With all these good 
numbers coming in, very few new jobs have been created in America yet in 
this recovery. Most big businesses that are doing better are still 
downsizing; it's a part of their productivity. That happened all during 
the 1980's, when in every year of the 1980's the Fortune 500 companies 
reduced employment in total by more than a quarter of a million in the 
United States. But throughout much of the eighties, that reduction was 
more than offset by the creation of jobs in the small business sector.
    In the last couple of years and regrettably even in the last few 
months, small business is not taking up the slack because of the 
crushing burden of health care costs and because of the credit crunch, 
which is much more severe in some States and regions than others but 
which is a very serious problem for our economy.
    We also have a deficit that next year is projected to be $50 billion 
bigger as of December than we were told in August and is growing 
exponentially, even though the Congressmen who are here can tell you 
that they made a good faith effort in 1990 to rein the deficit in with 
spending cuts and tax increases they thought would do it. It didn't 
happen because the taxes didn't bring in as much money as they thought, 
but even more importantly because health care costs have continued 
unabated, rising at breathtaking rates. So that at the end of this 
year--those of you who pay health insurance will know this--but we now, 
alone of all the advanced countries in the world, are spending 14 
percent of our income on health care. No other country except Canada is 
over 9.
    That is a terrific competitive disadvantage. It is costing you a 
great deal of money not only as taxpayers, for what you pay for 
Government health care, but in the private sector. And the hemorrhage is 
such that about 100,000 Americans a month are now losing their health 
insurance, many of them finding their way onto the public rolls and 
leading to explosive increases in the Government's health care burden.
    So as we look ahead to our challenges and as I look ahead to this 
speech I have to give on February 17th to the joint session of Congress, 
I still believe in the fundamental themes on which I ran for President: 
We have to increase job growth and income growth without increasing 
inflation. We have to face the serious problems of our urban areas and 
the serious problems of the underclass in ways that liberate the ability 
of all people to perform at high levels in this economy if we want to 
continue the increase in productivity. That means that we have to shift 
away in the money that you give us to spend, away from consumption, more 
toward investment. We have to increase investment in new technologies 
and education and training, in infrastructure and the things that will 
grow this economy. It also means that we have to provide more incentives 
in our Tax Code for investment in the private sector. And it means we 
have to act at long last to bring health care costs in line with 
inflation. If we did that, it would do more to free up private sector 
dollars to invest in economic growth than any tax cut I could sign into 
law or any spending increase that Congress and I together can enact.
    So we will begin in earnest as soon as this break is over to do 
those things that your National Government has never had to do 
simultaneously before: We will attempt to increase investment and reduce 
the deficit at the same time. It will require an enormous amount of 
discipline and a willingness to try some new things and to cut some 
things in ways that we have not done before.
    I hope you will all wish us well, and I hope you will tell every 
Member of your congressional delegation up here, without regard to 
party, that you know they're going to have to cast some difficult votes 
in order for this country to face its problems, and if they do it in 
good conscience and explain to you why you did it, you will not hold it 
against them. That's what they were hired to do, and you'll stick with 
them if they can do it.
    You know, when I was Governor--and I did that job for a dozen years, 
and I had a good time doing it--there were many times when I had to cut 
spending five or six times in a given year. And people would be a little 
disconcerted at first, but we never got in debt. And I was always proud 
of the fact that my State had such a disciplined system. We paid a 
terrible price for it during the eighties when times were tough. But 
because we rode them out, last year we ranked first or second in job 
growth in virtually every month when I was off running for President, 
not because of anything that happened last year but because of the 

[[Page 48]]

that were laid in investments, in being competitive, and in fiscal 
integrity, in keeping those books balanced. Those are the kind of 
difficult decisions we're going to have to make now.
    Not so long ago, you elected a Governor who had to make some of 
those decisions. And let me say that, again without attempting to be too 
partisan, the truth is that if you live in a State, you don't get to 
print your own money. You can't get in the mess that your National 
Government is in because you can't run that long without having the 
brakes come on, without throwing people through the collective 
windshield that keeps us all in the same boat. And I have to tell you 
that for all the pain that the decisions made by Governor Florio and the 
legislature then caused him and them, the truth is that your house is in 
order now. New Jersey is going to have a balanced budget without a tax 
increase, and you even have a rainy day fund at a time when many States 
are going bankrupt.
    Sooner or later, we all have to face the music. And when we do, we 
are normally rewarded. So New Jersey is being rewarded. Look at your 
credit rating. Look at the overall health of the economy. Look at the 
trends in the State. I hope that together with the Senate and the House, 
with the Republicans and the Democrats in this great Capital of yours, 
we can come to grips with our problems in ways that the American people 
will understand and embrace, perhaps with less political fallout, but I 
hope in the end with the same sort of stability and success that you 
have achieved with Governor Florio. And I hope you're proud of it, 
because I am.
    Let me just mention one other thing. I happened to think of this--it 
really hadn't occurred to me, but I think I ought to mention it. I asked 
Governor Florio, through the Trade Ambassador, Mickey Kantor, to serve 
on our intergovernmental advisory committee, because there's so much 
relationship now between our national trade policies and the policies 
followed at the State and local level for growth. I think he'll do a 
good job on that, but I wanted to emphasize it because a big part of our 
economic strength is in our capacity to export.
    While our administration has found it necessary to take some pretty 
tough positions on trade issues in the last 2 weeks, I want to emphasize 
to you I do not take those positions in the hope of provoking a trade 
war or raising trade barriers in this country but only so that we can 
have expanded trade on fair terms for ourselves and for all nations. We 
cannot grow this economy, and no wealthy nation can grow, unless there 
is global economic growth. And I want to pledge to you that I will do my 
best to help all the world-class companies headquartered in New Jersey 
have an environment in which they can grow and flourish in the 
international economy, with a trade system that is constantly expanding, 
but expanding on terms that are genuinely fair not only to ourselves but 
to our trading partners as well.
    I ask you all without regard to your party to wish us well. And I 
ask you one more time to give the Members of Congress here a pat on the 
back at the end of the dinner tonight. We're going to have a very 
challenging few months ahead of us. But it is an exciting time, and it 
is a fabulous opportunity for us to put our house in order and to deal 
with these problems and to move this country ahead.
    We are now positioned better than we have been in more than a decade 
to reassert the leadership of the United States economically and 
politically in the world in a way that is very positive if we will 
ensure future growth, get job growth along with economic growth, and put 
our financial house in order. I think we can do it if all the American 
people, again without regard to party, agree generally on the goal. We 
will disagree on the details, but in the end we will come to the 
people's business with a resolution. That's what you need, and most 
importantly, it's what your children need. We cannot afford to permit 
the Government to go on out of control, leaving our children with a 
legacy of debt and diminished living standards, when we can do so much 
better now.
    I want to thank you for what you have done, all of you in the 
private sector, to restore America's productivity to the breathtaking 
rates we've seen in this last quarter. We're going to try to give you 
that kind of productivity in your National Government. Thank you very 

[At this point, the President was presented with a gift.]

    I just want to say, if I ever heard a chamber of commerce speech in 
my life, it was that. He said, ``This is a Parker pen; it's for your 
wife. It's the nicest one they make.'' And then he said, ``And this 
other one's for you.'' [Laughter]

[[Page 49]]

[At this point, the President was presented with a second gift.]

    Let me say, I wish she were here to thank her personally. But this 
is a gift for the White House, for the American people. And I hope a lot 
of you from New Jersey will see this when you come in and know that it 
is yours. We'll leave it there for all time from the people of New 
    Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 7:43 p.m. at the Washington Sheraton Hotel. 
In his remarks, he referred to William H. Faherty, president, New Jersey 
Chamber of Commerce.